We have talked a lot about the perpetual hit machines in the 1960s, the Beatles and the Beach Boys. That being said, aside from the Beatles, no artist produced more #1 hits in the 1960s than The Supremes, also known as Diana Ross and The Supremes. Today’s album is the collection “Anthology”, a greatest hits collection. I sequenced this album in late 1965, as they were at the peak of their Motown magic.
The lineup shifted over time, but the most enduring members were lead singer Diana Ross, and Mary Wilson. The relationship and role definition between Ross and Wilson, along with the others who were a part of the Supremes over the long history of the act, has no shortage of drama, but I will focus on the music and impressive streak of hits this act delivered during this run. Sadly, since I began this blog, we lost Mary Wilson, who passed away on February 21st of this year.
Let’s look at the 12 #1 hits, in sequential order, all of which were included in this collection. “Where Did Our Love Go”, “Baby Love”, “Come See About Me”, “Stop! In the Name of Love”, “Back in My Arms Again”, “I Hear a Symphony”, “You Can’t Hurry Love”, “You Keep Me Hangin’ On”, “Love Is Here and Now You’re Gone”, “The Happening”, “Love Child”, and “Someday We’ll Be Together”. Ten of these twelve songs were written by the Motown songwriting trio of Lamont Dozier, Brian Holland and Eddie Holland, who also created hits for The Four Tops, The Jackson Five and other Motown artists.
As I listened to all of these (and others) together, I realized once again just how many classic songs they gave us, many of which have gone on to be big hits for other artists as well. I also really appreciated the simplicity and elegance of Diana Ross. I read one summary that described her voice as “thin”, and that is probably a fair word, but I take that as a complimentary description of her style. She doesn’t riff, she doesn’t over-sing, she just delivers the melody with a consistently beautiful tone, and the accompaniment of Wilson and her peers are an important and very well produced part of the sound.
This “Anthology” collection also includes some interesting covers, including “A Hard Day’s Night” by the Beatles, and “Whistle While You Work”, by… umm… Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. A couple of interesting choices, but I think I will stick with the hits as I load up my playlist from this album.
We will look at many other Motown artists, during and after their run of greatness under the watchful eye and direction of Berry Gordy, but Diana Ross and the Supremes are an excellent starting point for one of the most influential phases in all of American music.